Arguing about Literature A Guide and Reader

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2014-02-28
  • Publisher: Bedford/St. Martin's

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More and more, first- year writing courses foreground skills of critical analysis and argumentation. In response, Arguing about Literature hones students’ analytical skills through instruction in close critical reading of texts, showing them how to turn their reading into well-supported and rhetorically effective argumentative writing. Two books in one, it combines a guide to reading literature and writing arguments with a compact thematic anthology of stories, poems, plays, essays, and arguments for analysis and research, from the authors of Making Literature Matter.

Author Biography

John Schilb (PhD, State University of New York—Binghamton) is a professor of English at Indiana University, Bloomington, where he holds the Culbertson Chair in Writing. He has coedited Contending with Words: Composition and Rhetoric in a Postmodern Age, and with John Clifford, Writing Theory and Critical Theory. He is author of Between the Lines: Relating Composition Theory and Literary Theory and Rhetorical Refusals: Defying Audiences’ Expectations.
John Clifford (PhD, New York University) is a professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Editor of The Experience of Reading: Louis Rosenblatt and Reader-Response Theory, he has published numerous scholarly articles on pedagogy, critical theory, and composition theory, most recently in College English; Relations, Locations, Positions: Composition Theory for Writing Teachers; and in The Norton Book of Composition Studies.

Table of Contents

Preface for Instructors
Contents by Genre

PART ONE: A Brief Guide to Arguing about Literature

1. What is Argument?

Elements of Argument
     Paul Goldberger, Disconnected Urbanism
     Issues / Claims / Persuasion / Audience / Evidence / Reasoning / Assumptions / Appeals
Developing an Effective Style of Argument
Sample Argument for Analysis
     David W. Barno, A New Moral Compact
Writing a Response to an Argument
Student Response to an Argument
     Justin Korzack, How to Slow Down the Rush to War
Two Closing Arguments for Analysis
     Carlos Fraenkel, In Praise of the Clash of Cultures
     Francine Prose, Why Are Poor Kids Paying for School Security?

2. How to Argue about Literature

What Is Literature?
Why Study Literature in a College Writing Course?
Two Stories for Analysis
     Daniel Orozco, Orientation (story)
     Jamaica Kincaid, Girl (story)
Strategies for Making Arguments about Literature
     Identify Issues / Make a Claim / Aim to Persuade / Consider Your Audience / Gather and Present Evidence / Explain Your Reasoning / Identify Your Assumptions / Make Use of Appeals
Sample Student Argument about Literature
     Ann Schumwalt, The Mother’s Mixed Messages in “Girl”
Looking at Literature as Argument
     John Milton, When I Consider How My Light Is Spent (poem)
     Robert Frost, Mending Wall (poem)
     Jonathan Swift, A Modest Proposal (essay)

3. The Reading Process

Strategies for Close Reading
A Poem for Analysis
     Sharon Olds, “Summer Solstice, New York City” (poem)
Applying the Strategies
     Make Predictions / Reflect on One’s Personal Background / Read for Patterns and for Breaks in Patterns / Read for Puzzles, Ambiguities, and Unclear Moments / Read for the Author’s Choices / Generate Questions that Have More than One Possible Answer / State Tentative Answers
Reading Closely by Annotating
     X. J. Kennedy, Death of a Window Washer (poem)
Using Topics of Literary Studies to Get Ideas
     Lynda Hull, Night Waitress (poem)

4. The Writing Process

     William Wordsworth, The Solitary Reaper (poem)
Strategies for Exploring
Strategies for Planning
     Choose a Text / Identify Your Audience / Identify Your Issue, Claim, and Evidence / Identify Your Assumptions / Determine Your Organization
Strategies for Composing
     Decide on a Title / Make Choices about Your Style / Draft an Introduction /Limit Plot Summary / Decide How to Refer to the Author’s Life and Intentions / Recognize and Avoid Logical Fallacies
First Draft of a Student Paper
     Abby Hazelton, The Passage of Time in “The Solitary Reaper”
Strategies for Revising
     A Checklist for Revising
Revised Draft of a Student Paper
     Abby Hazelton, The Passage of Time in “The Solitary Reaper”
Strategies for Writing a Comparative Paper
     Don Paterson, Two Trees (poem)
     Luisa A. Igloria, Regarding History (poem)
     List Similarities and Differences
     Consider “Weighting” Your Comparison
     A Student Comparative Paper
     Jeremy Cooper,” Don Paterson’s Criticism of Nature’s Owners”

5. Writing about Literary Genres

Writing about Stories
     Eudora Welty, A Visit of Charity
The Elements of Short Fiction
     Plot and Structure  /Point of View / Characters / Setting / Imagery / Language / Theme
Final Draft of a Student Paper
     Tanya Vincent, The Real Meaning of Charity in “A Visit of Charity”
Writing about Poems
     Mary Oliver, Singapore
     Yusef Komunyakaa, Blackberries
     Edwin Arlington Robinson, The Mill
The Elements of Poetry
     Speaker and Tone / Diction and Syntax / Figures of Speech / Sound / Rhythm and Meter / Theme
Final Draft of a Student Paper
     Michaela Fiorucci, “Negotiating Boundaries”
Comparing Poems and Pictures
     Analyzing Visual Art / Writing an Essay that Compares Literature and Art / A Sample Paper Comparing a Poem and a Picture
     Edward Hopper, “Office at Night”
     Rolando Perez, “Office at Night
Writing about Plays
     August Strindberg, The Stronger
The Elements of Drama
     Plot and Structure / Characters / Stage Directions and Setting / Imagery / Language / Theme
Final Draft of a Student Paper
     Trish Carlisle, “Which Is the Stronger Actress in August Strindberg’s Play?”
Writing about Essays
     June Jordan, Many Rivers to Cross
The Elements of Essays
     Voice / Style / Structure / Ideas
Final Draft of a Student Paper
     Isla Bravo, Reading Women’s Roles

6.Writing Researched Arguments

Identify an Issue and a Tentative Claim
Search for Sources in the Library and Online
Evaluate the Sources
Strategies for Working with Sources
Strategies for Integrating Sources
Strategies for Documenting Sources (MLA Format)
     MLA In-Text Citation
     MLA Works Cited
Four Annotated Student Research Papers
A Paper that Uses a Literary Work to Examine Social Issues
     Sarah Michaels, “The Yellow Wallpaper” as a Guide to Social Factors in Postpartum Depression
A Paper that Deals with Existing Interpretations of a Literary Work
     Katie Johnson, The Meaning of the Husband’s Fainting in “The Yellow Wall-Paper”
A Paper that Analyzes a Literary Work through the Framework of a Particular Theorist
     Jacob Grobowicz, Using Foucault to Understand Disciplinary Power in Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper”
A Paper that Places Literature in Historical and Cultural Context
     Brittany Thomas, The Relative Absence of the Human Touch in “The Yellow Wall-Paper”

PART TWO: Literature and Arguments

7. Families

Mothers and Daughters: Stories
Tillie Olsen, I Stand Here Ironing
Amy Tan, Two Kinds
Alice Walker, Everyday Use

Siblings in Conflict: Stories
Tobias Wolff, The Rich Brother
James Baldwin, Sonny’s Blues

Fateful Decisions about Parenthood: Stories
Ernest Hemingway, Hills Like White Elephants
T. Coraghessan Boyle, The Love of My Life

Reconciling with Fathers: Poems
Lucille Clifton, forgiving my father
Robert Hayden, Those Winter Sundays
Theodore Roethke, My Papa's Waltz
Li-Young Lee, My Father, in Heaven, Is Reading Out Loud

Grandparents and Legacies: Poems
Elizabeth Cook-Lynn, Grandfather at the Indian Health Clinic
Nikki Giovanni, Legacies
Linda Hogan, Heritage
Gary Soto, Behind Grandma's House
Alberto Ríos, Mi Abuelo
Lorna Dee Cervantes, Refugee Ship
Judith Ortiz Cofer, Claims

Gays and Lesbians in Families: Poems
Essex Hemphill, Commitments
Audre Lorde, Who Said It Was Simple
Minnie Bruce Pratt, Two Small-Sized Girls
Rane Arroyo, My Transvestite Uncle Is Missing

Arguments about a Poem: Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy”
Sylvia Plath, Daddy
Critical Commentaries:
     Mary Lynn Broe, From Protean Poetic: The Poetry of Sylvia Plath
     Lynda K. Bundtzen, From Plath's Incarnations
     Steven Gould Axelrod, From Sylvia Plath: The Wound and the Cure of Words
     Tim Kendall, from Sylvia Plath: A Critical Study

Arguments about an Issue: What Are the Bounds of Parental Protection?
Gerard Jones, Violent Media Is Good for Kids
Lee Siegel, The Perils of Parenting in the Digital Age
Harlan Coben, The Undercover Parent

8. Love

Romantic Dreams: Stories
James Joyce, Araby
John Updike, A & P
Joyce Carol Oates, Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

Is This Love?: Stories
William Faulkner, A Rose for Emily
Raymond Carver, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

The Appearance of Love: Stories by Kate Chopin
Kate Chopin, The Storm
Kate Chopin, The Story of an Hour
Kate Chopin, Désirée's Baby

True Love: Poems
William Shakespeare, Let me not to the marriage of true minds
John Keats, Bright Star
Emily Dickinson, Wild Nights--Wild Nights!
Edna St. Vincent Millay, What My Lips Have Kissed, and Where, and Why
e. e. cummings, somewhere i have never travelled
Wislawa Szymborska, True Love
Michael S. Harper, Discovery

A Seductive Argument: Re-Visions of a Poem
Andrew Marvell, To His Coy Mistress
Peter De Vries, To His Importunate Mistress
T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Love as a Haven? Poems
Matthew Arnold, Dover Beach
Susan Minot, My Husband’s Back

Mourning Loved Ones: Poems
W.H. Auden, Funeral Blues
Theodore Roethke, Elegy for Jane
Anne Sexton, Sylvia’s Death

Arguments about a Play: William Shakespeare’s Othello
William Shakespeare, Othello
Critical Commentaries:
     A.C. Bradley, The Noble Othello
     Millicent Bell, Othello’s Jealousy
     Jeffrie G. Murphy, Jealousy, Shame, and Rival

Arguments about an Issue: Is Marriage Worth It?
Laura Kipnis, Against Love
Meghan O’Rourke, The Marriage Trap

9. Freedom and Confinement

Fearsome Incarcerations: Stories
Edgar Allan Poe, The Cask of Amontillado
Ira Sher, The Man in the Well

Snares of Tradition: Stories
Shirley Jackson, The Lottery
Ursula Le Guin, The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas

Variations on a Stereotype: Re-Visions of a Story
Charles Perrault, Little Red Riding Hood
Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm, Little Red Cap
Angela Carter, The Company of Wolves

Freedom for Animals: Poems
William Blake, The Tyger
D. H. Lawrence, Snake
Elizabeth Bishop, The Fish
Thomas Lux, To Help the Monkey Cross the River
Dean Young, Clam Ode

Trapped in Stereotypes: Poems
Chrystos, Today Was a Bad Day Like TB
Louise Erdrich, Dear John Wayne
Dwight Okita, In Response to Executive Order 9066
David Hernandez, Pigeons
Pat Mora, Legal Alien
Toi Derricotte, Black Boys Play the Classics
Naomi Shihab Nye, Blood

A Dream of Freedom: Poems by Langston Hughes
Langston Hughes, Let America Be America Again
Langston Hughes, Open Letter to the South
Langston Hughes, Theme for English B
Langston Hughes, Harlem

Domestic Prisons: Plays
Henrik Ibsen, A Doll House
Susan Glaspell, Trifles
Lynn Nottage, POOF!

Crossing Boundaries: Essays
Richard Rodriguez, Aria
Jose Antonio Vargas, My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant

Arguments about an Issue: What Are the Bounds of Free Speech on Campus?
Gerald Uelmen, The Price of Free Speech
Charles R. Lawrence III, The Debates Over Putting Limits on Racist Speech Must Not Ignore the Damage It Does to Its Victims
Greg Lukianoff, Feigning Free Speech on Campus

Contexts for Research: Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” and Mental Illness
Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper
Cultural Contexts
     Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Why I Wrote “The Yellow Wallpaper”
     S. Weir Mitchell, From The Evolution of the Rest Treatment
     John Harvey Kellogg, From The Ladies’ Guide in Health and Disease

10. Doing Justice

Discovering Injustice: Stories
Nathaniel Hawthorne, Young Goodman Brown
Toni Cade Bambara, The Lesson
Alice Walker, The Flowers

Racial Injustice: Poems
Countee Cullen, Incident
Natasha Trethewey, Incident

Envisioning a More Just World: Poems
William Blake, The Chimney Sweeper
Martin Espada, Imagine the Angels of Bread
Mark Jarman, If I Were Paul

Punishments: Poems
Seamus Heaney, Punishment
Carolyn Forché, The Colonel
C.K. Williams, The Nail
Sherman Alexie, Capital Punishment

He Said/She Said: Re-Visions of a Poem
Robert Browning, My Last Duchess
Gabriel Spera, My Ex-Husband

Women Resisting Injustice: A Play in the News
Sophocles, Antigone
In the News:
     Peter Beaumont and Saeed Kamali Deghan, Iran: Women on the frontline of the fight for rights
     Isabel Hilton, A Triumph for Moral Authority

Civil Disobedience: Essays
Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience
Rebecca Solnit, The Thoreau Problem
Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail

Arguments about a Story: Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”
Flannery O’Connor, A Good Man Is Hard to Find
Critical Commentaries
     Flannery O’Connor, from Mystery and Manners
     Martha Stephens, from The Question of Flannery O’Connor
     Stephen Bandy, from “’One of My Babies’: The Misfit and the Grandmother
     John Desmond, from “Flannery O’Connor’s Misfit and the Mystery of Evil”

Arguments about an Issue: Should Brain Science Influence Sentencing?
David Eagleman, The Brain on Trial
Raymond Tallis, Why Blame Me? It Was All My Brain’s Fault

Contexts for Research: Ida Fink’s The Table and Holocaust Testimony
Ida Fink, The Table
Cultural Contexts
     Wladyslaw Szpilman, The Umshlagplatz
     Dori Laub and Shoshana Felman, Testimony and Historical Truth

11. Journeys
Errands of Mercy: Stories
William Carlos Williams, The Use of Force
Eudora Welty, A Worn Path

A Journey to War: A Story in the News
Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried
In the News:
     Valerie Sieling Jacobs, Packing for the Ineffable

Roads Taken: Poems by Robert Frost
Robert Frost, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken
Robert Frost, Acquainted with the Night

Travels Through the Dark: Re-Visions of a Poem
William Stafford, Traveling Through the Dark
John Burnside, Penitence
Robert Wrigley, Highway 12, Just East of Paradise, Idaho
Loren Goodman, Traveling Through the Dark (2005)

Crossing the Waters: Poems
Katia Kapovich, The Ferry
Linda Pastan, Leaving the Island
Mark Doty, Night Ferry

Final Journeys: Poems
Mary Oliver, When Death Comes
John Donne, Death Be Not Proud
Dylan Thomas, Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night
Emily Dickinson, Because I could not stop for Death

Arguments about an Issue: Are We Losing Our Sense of Place?
Sherry Turkle, The Flight from Conversation
Nathan Jurgensen, The IRL Fetish

Contexts for Research: Ralph Ellison’s “Battle Royal” and the Pursuit of Equality
Ralph Ellison, “Battle Royal”
Cultural Contexts:
     Booker T. Washington, Atlanta Exposition Address
     W.E. B. DuBois, Of Mr. Booker T. Washington
     Gunnar Myrdal, Social Equality

Appendix: Critical Approaches to Literature
Contemporary Schools of Criticism
     New Criticism; Feminist Criticism; Psychoanalytic Criticism; Marxist Criticism; Deconstruction; Reader-Response Criticism; Postcolonial Criticism; New Historicism
Working with the Critical Approaches
     James Joyce, Counterparts (story)

Index of Authors, Titles, Terms, and First Lines


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